Earth and Air

Peter Dickinson  - published October 2012

October 2012 · 208pp · 9781618730589 · trade cloth · $17.95 | 9781618730381 · trade paper · $14.95 | 9781618730398 · ebook · $9.95

Tales of Elemental Creatures

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Wall Street Journal: The Best Fiction of 2012
“Much modern fantasy draws upon myth and folklore, but not many authors can enter wholly into the surprising and novel logic of myth. In this brilliant collection of stories, Peter Dickinson recasts Beowulf and Orpheus, investigates tales of earth-spirits, explains the footwear of Mercury and accounts for the survival of Athena’s owls in Christian Byzantium. These beautiful stories, our reviewer believed, ‘deserve to become classics of the genre.'”

“Enjoyable surprises await those who pick up this latest and last addition to the Tales of Elemental Creatures series. Peter Dickinson, working alone (he co-authored the first two collections, Water and Fire with wife Robin McKinley), once again proves his expertise in fantasy and short story writing…. The pleasure of reading a short story by this author stems from his complete control over the essentials of fiction writing…. A true delight, this engrossing collection will lead many readers back for second and third readings.”
Shelf Awareness

“Mining folklore for ideas is routine in modern fantasy, but not many can add the surprising twists and novel logic that Peter Dickinson does. These are beautiful stories, deft, satisfying, unexpected. They deserve to become classics of the genre.”
—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal

Peter Dickinson has long been one of our favorite authors and we are very proud and happy to announce that we are publishing a new collection of stories by Dickinson—and we will go on from here to reprint many of his novels for both children and adults.

In this collection, you will find stories that range from the mythic to contemporary fantasy to science fiction. You will find a troll, gryphons, a beloved dog, the Land of the Dead, an owl, a minotaur, and a very alien Cat. Earth and Air is the third and final book in a trilogy of shared collections connected by the four classical elements. It follows previous volumes Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, written by both Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley.

Ridiki is Steff’s beloved dog, named after Eurydice, whom the poet Orpheus tried to bring back from the dead. When, like her namesake, Ridiki is bitten by a snake and dies, Steff decides that he too should journey to the Underworld to ask the King of the Land of the Dead for his dog back.

Mari is the seventh child of a family in which troll blood still runs. When her husband goes missing in a Scottish loch, she must draw upon the power of her blood to rescue him. Sophie, a young girl, fashions a witch’s broomstick out of an ash sapling, and gets more than she bargained for. An escaped slave, Varro, must kill a gryphon, in order to survive. A boy named Yanni allies himself with an owl and a goddess in order to fight an ancient evil. A group of mind-bonded space travelers must face an unknown threat and solve the murder of a companion before time runs out.

All of these stories are about, in one way or another, the contrary and magical pull of two elements, Earth and Air. Each story showcases the manifold talents of a master storyteller and craftsman who has twice won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award, as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

A short interview on F&SF about “Troll Blood.”


“I particularly enjoyed “Ridiki”, a version of the Eurydice story substituting a boy’s beloved dog Ridiki for Eurydice, and “Wizand”, which cleverly portrays the unusual lifecycle of the wizand, which confers power on witches, including, in this story, a 20th-century girl named Sophie. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the final story, “The Fifth Element”, which doesn’t as obviously deal with an “elemental creature” as the other stories. Instead, it’s an odd science fiction horror story, that reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s first published story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and Robert Sheckley’s “Specialist”, in telling of the multispecies crew of a sort of tramp starship, and what happens when their “ship’s Cat” dies.”
—Rich Horton, Locus

The prevailing spirit of Earth and Air seems to be Mercury, the sardonic trickster. Read it with your mind open, senses alert… and prepare for a marvelously bumpy ride.
–Faren Miller, Locus

“Dickinson completes the series of “elemental” tales he began with his wife Robin McKinley (Water, rev. 7/02; Fire, rev. 11/09). Though links to the theme can be tenuous, these six new stories are provocative in both variety and ideas. . . .and with Dickinson’s usual command of imaginative imagery and beautifully tooled language, this is a fitting capstone to the series.”
Horn Book

“The prevailing tone of all six is somewhat dark, even saturnine, though not without flashes of hope. In content and style, they are sophisticated and challenging to the extent that the volume might have been published as an adult book. Certainly it has strong crossover appeal. Older teens and Dickinson fans of all ages will find the stories rewarding despite the investment of effort in the reading experience.”

“Noted fantasist Dickinson concludes the cycle of elemental stories he began with Robin McKinley in Fire (BCCB 11/09) and Water (BCCB 7/02) in a solo outing with tales of earth and air spirits. Aside from the sci-fi influenced final story, “The Fifth Element,” the five preceding tales evoke an old-world flavor of magic, incorporating pieces of Greek mythology and European folklore, sometimes placing archetypal beings in the modern world of cars and email. Appropriately, the two tales focusing on earth creatures, “Troll Blood” and “Wizand” (yes, that is the right spelling), are characterized by densely loaded prose and deal with themes of love, lust, and possession. Without McKinley’s more adolescent-focused contributions, the stories lean more toward a new adult audience, though the two animal-centered stories, “Ridiki” and “Scops,” will appeal to pet-friendly readers, particularly dog lovers. These stories are nonetheless thoughtful and provocative, and they will find an audience among Dickinson’s usual fans.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This is ultimately a wonderfully hopeful work, with glimpses at some of the best of human nature: compassion, love, a sense of right and fairness, and a correspondingly humane response from the supernatural powers.”
School Library Journal

“These unusual, memorable tales from a much-admired writer should appeal both to teens and Dickinson’s adult fans.”
Publishers Weekly

“Strange, sometimes beautiful tales.”
Kirkus Reviews

“They are beautifully told and move so effortlessly that I was startled to discover I’d read the book in one sitting.”
Don D’Ammassa

Reviews of “Troll Blood”

“Another story which will stay with me is Peter Dickinson’s “Troll Blood.” Mari is a young researcher of Old Norse, with a curious family history. She develops a friendship with her professor, marries the love of her life, and through these relationships she explores her ancestral connections. This is a heart-warming fantasy story of love, trust and honour, held together by lush, sophisticated prose. My one criticism is it jumps about geographically, making is a bit hard to follow at times, but overall this is a beautiful story.”
—Barbara Melville, Tangent

“If some crafty Tilton-hunter were setting a snare, there could be no better bait than a piece like this. Old manuscripts. Old Norse. Beowulf. Even for those readers not so predisposed to love manuscript neep, the story of the troll and the bargain works well, for a story of a troll. I’m not quite so smitten by the biology and the verse, but it’s still another win for this issue.
—Lois Tilton, Locus

Table of Contents


Troll Blood
The Fifth Element

Praise for Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

World Fantasy Award finalist

“There is plenty here to excite, enthrall, and move even the pickiest readers.”—School Library Journal

“… a collection of enchanting tales.”—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits

“This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome.”—School Library Journal

“Dickinson’s offerings are notable for their sophisticated magical thinking and subtlety of expression.”—The Horn Book

“Dickinson’s stories are told with a storyteller’s cadence.”—Booklist

“This collection … offers something for every fantasy fan.”—Library Media Connection

Praise for Peter Dickinson’s children’s books:

“One of the real masters of children’s literature.”
—Philip Pullman

“Peter Dickinson is a national treasure.”
The Guardian

“Wholly enjoyable – fascinating, sophisticated and funny.”
The Times

“Magnificent. Peter Dickinson is the past-master story-teller of our day.”
Times Literary Supplement

“A haunting novel that resonates with ancient and primitive mysteries.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Like his stellar novels Shadow of a Hero and Bone from a Dry Sea, Dickinson’s latest offering moves from the mythic to the particular and back again, making clear the ways in which an individual’s extraordinary experience could metamorphose into an entire culture’s legend. Readers who are willing and able to fall into step with its majestic pace will be rewarded by a thought-provoking trek through a fairy tale world that is as breathtakingly fresh as it is archetypal…. A challenging magical adventure for the thinking reader.”
Publishers Weekly

“Dickinson works his own wonders in a thoroughly compelling tale that delves into the nature of both magic and time…. Dickinson’s world is vividly realized, his play with time and magic is totally credible, and his characterizations are fully developed.”
Booklist (starred review)

“As much as anything, this book is about the power of story and the influence it can have on ordinary people’s lives.”
School Library Journal

Peter Dickinson OBE is a two-time winner of both the Carnegie Medal and Whitbread Award and winner of the Guardian Award. He has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger as well as the Guardian Award and Whitbread Prize. His latest book is Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Spirits (Big Mouth House). He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.